Rumors about some sort of anti-used game protection being planned for the next-generation Xbox have surfaced on several occasions over the past year. Although I've always been skeptical about an "always on, always connected" requirement for the console, today a number of sites are reporting on rumors that supposedly reinforce that notion, along with new details courtesy of leaked Xbox Development Kit documents.
After carefully reading the hardware overview published by Vgleaks, which was previously responsible for revealing Durango's specs, it seems that some people are just being paranoid or unrealistic about Microsoft's plans. Here's the relevant "always connected" bit and the context in which it's mentioned:
Durango will implement different power states so that it can always be powered on, but will draw minimal electricity when not in use. The console will be ready instantly when users want to play, and will always maintain a network connection so that console software and games are always current. With this "Always On, Always Connected" design, users will easily and quickly enjoy their connected entertainment experiences, with no waiting for the console to restart or install updates.
In other words, "always on, always connected" is a feature rather than a requirement to play games. It's not necessarily meant to do DRM checks every few minutes to make sure you are not running pirate or second hand games, and it certainly doesn't mean that games will stop working if you lose your connection. Instead, it's about downloading stuff like game or social network updates in the background so they're ready when you need them.
If any of that sounds familiar is because the PlayStation 4's "network standby" will do the same thing.
Now, that doesn't mean the next Xbox won't have any protections against used games. The company might still use one-time use activation codes for games, as previous rumors have suggested, but exactly how such a scheme would work hasn't been confirmed. Microsoft could charge a fee lower than the price of a full game to re-activate it on another console, for example, in a move that would mimic EA's Online Pass initiative.
Other interesting tidbits from the leaked documents include a mention that the next-gen console will feature a hard drive with enough capacity to "hold a large number of games." Blu-ray media will be used for distribution, but games will actually be installed and run from the hard drive.
The installation system is designed in such a way that users can load games even before the installation is finished so there's not too much waiting involved. Playback from optical discs is not supported.